Masque Sound Provides Custom Audio for It’s Only a Play

by Jacob Coakley
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The cast of It’s Only a Play, miked with equipment from Masque SoundSound designer Fitz Patton and associate sound designer Justin Stasiw relied on Masque Sound to supply sound equipment for Broadway’s It’s Only a Play.

MASQUE SOUND GOES ON WILD TRIP WITH THE STAR-STUDDED BROADWAY COMEDY, IT’S ONLY A PLAY
Custom Audio Equipment Package Ensures the Laughs Keep Coming in Season’s Most Highly Anticipated Show

NEW YORK, OCTOBER 6, 2014—When four-time Tony® Award-winner Terrence McNally’s raucous, ridiculous and tender comedy, It’s Only A Play, arrived on Broadway at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre, Sound Designer Fitz Patton and Associate Sound Designer Justin Stasiw turned to Masque Sound, a leading theatrical sound reinforcement, installation and design company, to provide a custom audio equipment package for the laugh-out-loud hit of the year.

It’s Only A Play tells the story of opening night of Peter Austin’s new play as he anxiously waits to see if his show is a critical hit. With his career on the line, he shares his first Broadway night opening with his best friend, a television star; his fledgling producer; his erratic leading lady; his wunderkind director; an infamous drama critic; and a fresh-off-the-bus coat check attendant.

The all-star cast of It’s Only A Play includes F. Murray Abraham, Matthew Broderick, Stockard Channing, Rupert Grint, Nathan Lane, Megan Mullally and Micah Stock. This hilarious ensemble is directed by three-time Tony® Award-winner Jack O’Brien.

In designing the sound, Patton and Stasiw both aimed to create as transparent an audio system as possible. By strategically placing foot and boundary microphones hidden within the framework of the set and at the lip of the stage, the designers were able to successfully pick up the actors’ dialogues, while providing the audience with the transparent feel that they envisioned.

“The play features a high-profile cast, so we were looking to provide a very realistic, acoustical sounding package,” says Stasiw. “The goal in the sound design was to provide a slight vocal lift in order to ensure that everyone in the audience could hear the actors clearly, without it sounding like the dialogue was emitting from the loudspeakers. The selection and placement of microphones were two very important tasks for this play, and Masque Sound was instrumental in providing us with the equipment that we needed to be successful.”

Masque Sound supplied a selection of microphones from DPA, including the 4021s and 4061s. “We utilized the 4021s for our floor microphones and additionally hid some within the set. The 4021 is a great, compact cardioid microphone to use as a boundary source. We also used the 4061s, which not only sound great but also are so tiny that you can hide them without worrying that anyone will be able to see them. We hid microphones around the set in order to pick up the performers’ in as natural a manner as possible. The cast is an amazing set of performers who all have strong projecting voices, so most of the amplified signal is fed into the under balcony section and the delay system. These performers are so talented that their voices can easily reach all the way to the balcony rail, so we just have to ensure that the sound gets to the back of the house.”

At the heart of the custom audio equipment package that Masque Sound provided was the Yamaha CL5 Digital Mixing Console. “The CL5’s Dante® interconnect capabilities make it a great choice because the layout of the theatre makes it difficult to maneuver heavy paired cable from backstage to the front of house,” adds Stasiw. “The ability to only have to run two network cables from backstage to front of house is incredibly helpful. In addition, Yamaha still offers the most MIDI controllability out of any console, allowing us to automate the system by essentially controlling any singular function on the console with MIDI. The ability to have that remote control over any parameter in the deck was a necessity for this production”

The custom speaker system supplied by Masque Sound features a selection of speakers from d&b audiotechnik, including E12 two-way multipurpose loudspeakers for the main left and right and downfill, as well as C7-TOP two-way horn loaded loudspeakers for the center cluster. “The sound effects used for the show feature a lot of realism, including phones ringing, etc., so there are a number of speakers hidden in the set to help us image those objects on stage and ensure that the audience is sonically drawn toward the correct positions on stage,” adds Stasiw. “The d&b speakers are essential, as they sound superior, are easy to set up and minimize steps to successfully tune the sound system.”

Additionally, Masque Sound provided Patton and Stasiw with d&b audiotechnik E8 loudspeakers to position underneath the balcony along with a large surround system comprised entirely of E0s. Patton and Stasiw also hid some E0s on stage.

“Masque Sound is always great to work with,” concludes Stasiw. “I have always had a good experience coming out of their shop and really appreciate that they are a full solution provider. The crew has always been helpful in terms of assisting our staff with everything from service and technical support to equipment advice, and Masque Sound once again did a wonderful job in helping us bring our sonic vision to life on stage.”

It’s Only A Play’s 18-week limited engagement is slated to run through January 4, 2015 at The Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre (4235 West 45th Street). For more information, including how to purchase tickets, visit http://itsonlyaplay.com/.

About Masque Sound

Founded in 1936 by a trio of Broadway stagehands, Masque Sound evolved into one of NYC’s most successful theatrical sound reinforcement, installation and design companies specializing in theatrical, house of worship, sporting, corporate, TV broadcast and live concert events. Celebrating more than 75 years in the industry, the company is lead by Geoff Shearing, the firm’s 3rd generation owner, and Vice President and General Manager Stephanie Hansen. The company also operates Florida-based Professional Wireless Systems, a leader in the development and implementation of wireless technology. Credits range from major Broadway shows and tours including “Phantom of the Opera,” “Mamma Mia!,” “Lion King,” “Jersey Boys,” “Memphis,” “The Book of Mormon,” “Newsies,” “Once” and “Kinky Boots” to yearly Super Bowl broadcasts and installations of varying sizes, including New York’s New Victory Theater and historic St. Bartholomew’s Church. Masque Sound’s 70,000 sq. ft. corporate headquarters and main assembly facility is located at 21 East Union Ave., East Rutherford, NJ, 20 minutes from midtown Manhattan. For more information, call (201) 939-8666 or visit www.MasqueSound.com.